Senate filibuster’s likely survival could be death knell for Biden agenda
“The challenges [Biden] faces are the same challenges Trump faced, and are exactly why Republicans had no legislative agenda during the two years they controlled the House and the four years they controlled the Senate, which is, the party is divided,” said James Wallner, a senior fellow at the R Street Institute, who led the Senate Steering Committee staff under Republican Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Mike Lee of Utah. “The Democratic Party is divided, as well, and I suspect that those divisions will keep just as much stuff off the floor in the Senate as Republicans will.”
Other major legislative fights at the start of Obama’s first and second terms in office serve as reminders of Senate obstruction, Wallner said: “If you think back to the Affordable Care Act, you can use reconciliation as a threat to force the other side to participate in that process, not to accept your bill but to participate in the process.”
In 2009, Democrats, who controlled both chambers, passed a budget that included reconciliation instructions for healthcare reform, paving the way for lawmakers to pass a bill with a 51-vote threshold instead of 60.
“Republicans were trying to get their colleagues in the Senate not to participate with Democrats in healthcare reform … and Democrats then threatened time and time again to go it alone with reconciliation if Republicans would not negotiate with them,” Wallner said.
By the summer of 2009, Republicans, many of them conservatives, participated in negotiations with Democrats. “And the reason they’d tell their colleagues inside the Senate is that, ‘They’ll go it alone with reconciliation if we don’t,’” Wallner said.
“Right now, one way to interpret the reconciliation talk coming out of Democratic circles is to send signals to Republicans that ‘we can do certain things.’ And if you want to have an opportunity to change the law, if you want to have an opportunity to put your own stamp on stuff, then you need to get involved in the negotiations and the process, and you need to compromise,” he added.